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As Long as We Remember...

August 7, 2007

Insurgents' Biggest Supplier

Roy Meachum

Monday's Washington Post listed four more names under the heading: Iraq War Deaths. Three were Army soldiers, the fourth a Tennessee National Guard sergeant. He was 41. Their names were listed inside, 14 pages away from the front page.

The main story that day: Weapons Given to Iraq Are Missing. It appeared in the right-hand corner on the front page. Only the deaths of presidents, and the like, rate the full banner streamers that go from margin-to-margin.

The General Accounting Office estimates approximately 57,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols have gone missing. That's out of about 190,000 weapons handed out to Iraq government forces.

The worst hemorrhaging, the report says, happened from 2004 to 2005, when training and arming our potential allies came under the command of Gen. David H. Petraeus. That name should sound very familiar.

The same general now runs our whole military shebang in Iraq, and not incidentally: His report next month will determine the future of some 150,000 young Americans under his command. More: the White House looks to General Petraeus to determine where the nation proceeds from here.

To me that's a frightening thought. This is a man who couldn't keep count to the point that thousands of potential killing weapons were placed in enemy hands. He received his present post chiefly because he said things the president wanted to hear. We cam expect more of the same next month.

The general's only near-equal in furnishing weapons to the enemy are not Iran, Syria or Saudi Arabia, which the administration means to shield from criticism. Gold Star mothers and fathers should thank the former defense secretary and his henchman, the vice president of the United States.

Between them, Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Cheney rushed the nation into war with so few fighters Saddam Hussein's vast armory was left unguarded for the picking. Those vast outdoor storage acres make pittance of Sunni or Shiite governments' aid to Iraq's religious factions.

By the way, media report the current U.S. troop strength in the battle zone has passed 150,000, approximately 30,000 more than for the invasion. At the current number, it's still roughly half the number that former overall Army commander Eric Shinseki told a Senate committee we should have going in. For his honesty, General Shinseki was hustled into retirement, but not before getting a royal reaming from Mr. Rumsfeld's deputy defense secretary, Paul Wolfowitz.

Even after departing the Pentagon, Mr. Wolfowitz operated in the same reckless, irresponsible ways. Rewarded by the president's men for his blind loyalty in dealing with Iraq, Mr. Wolfowitz was fired as World Bank president for playing fast and loose with the bank's ethics. He inveigled his girl friend into the State Department's upper reaches; she had worked for the World Bank. They are now both out on the official street.

Not since William G. Harding's days in the Oval Office has Washington stunk so badly; at least then young Americans were not losing their lives. Mr. Harding's grievous fault, like George W. Bush's, was cronyism: his closest buddies stole taxpayers blind; they corralled, among other choice items, a huge oil reservoir.

Fortunately for his peace of mind, Mr. Harding died in office. With only 18 months to go, George W. Bush looks like he'll live through it all. Unfortunately, hundreds of Americans and thousands of Iraqis will not. Even more will wind up in hospitals' critical care wards.

How does the government in Baghdad feel about all this? Its equivalent of the U.S. Congress took the month of August off, presumably to scatter elsewhere. Inside their country they cannot get better than they have in the Green Zone: All the water they want, uninterrupted electricity and food completely devoid of flies.

The American people are the biggest suppliers of luxuries for Iraq's elite, too.

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